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Madame De Stael
by [?]

Gibbon never married. But he frankly tells us all about his love for Susanna Curchod, and relates how he visited her, in her splendid Paris home. “She greeted me without embarrassment,” says Gibbon, resentfully; “and in the evening Necker left us together in the parlor, bade me good-night, and lighting a candle went off to bed!”

Gibbon, historian and philosopher, was made of common clay (for authors are made of clay, like plain mortals), and he could not quite forgive Madame Necker for not being embarrassed on meeting her former lover, neither could he forgive Necker for not being jealous.

But that only daughter of the Neckers, Germaine, pleased Gibbon–pleased him better than the mother, and Gibbon extended his stay in Paris and called often.

“She was a splendid creature,” Gibbon relates; “only seventeen, but a woman grown, physically and mentally; not handsome, but dazzling, brilliant, emotional, sensitive, daring!”

Gibbon was a bit of a romanticist, as all historians are, and he no doubt thought it would be a fine denouement to life’s play to capture the daughter of his old sweetheart, and avenge himself on Fate and the unembarrassed Madame Necker and the unpiqued husband, all at one fell stroke–and she would not be dowerless either. Ha, ha!

But Gibbon forgot that he was past forty, short in stature, and short of breath, and “miles around,” as Talleyrand put it.

“I quite like you,” said the daring daughter, as the eloquent Gibbon sat by her side at a dinner.

“Why shouldn’t you like me–I came near being your papa!”

“I know, and would I have looked like you?”


“What a calamity!”

Even then she possessed that same bubbling wit that was hers years later when she sat at table with D’Alembert. On one side of the great author was Madame Recamier, famous for beauty (and later for a certain “Beauty-Cream”), on the other the daughter of Necker.

“How fortunate!” exclaimed D’Alembert with rapture; “how fortunate I sit between Wit and Beauty!”

“Yes, and without possessing either,” said Wit.

No mistake, the girl’s intellect was too speedy even for Gibbon. She fenced all ’round him and over him, and he soon discovered that she was icily gracious to every one, save her father alone. For him she seemed to outpour all the lavish love of her splendid womanhood. It was unlike the usual calm affection of father and daughter. It was a great and absorbing love, of which even the mother was jealous.

“I can’t just exactly make ’em out,” said Gibbon, and withdrew in good order.

Before Necker was forty he had accumulated a fortune, and retired from business to devote himself to literature and the polite arts.

“I have earned a rest,” he said; “besides, I must have leisure to educate my daughter.”

Men are constantly “retiring” from business, but someway the expected Elysium of leisure forever eludes us. Necker had written several good pamphlets and showed the world that he had ability outside of money-making. He was appointed Resident Minister of Geneva at the Court of France. Soon after he became President of the French East India Company, because there was no one else with mind broad enough to fill the place. His house was the gathering-place of many eminent scholars and statesmen. Necker was quiet and reserved; his wife coldly brilliant, cultured, dignified, religious. The daughter made good every deficiency in both.

She was tall, finely formed, but her features were rather heavy, and in repose there was a languor in her manner and a blankness in her face. This seeming dulness marks all great actors, but the heaviness is only on the surface; it often covers a sleeping volcano. On recognizing an acquaintance, Germaine Necker’s face would be illumined, and her smile would light a room. She could pronounce a man’s name so he would be ready to throw himself at her feet, or over a precipice for her. And she could listen in a way that complimented; and by a sigh, a nod, an exclamation, bring out the best–such thoughts as a man never knew he had. She made people surprise themselves with their own genius; thus proving that to make a good impression means to make the man pleased with himself. “Any man can be brilliant with her,” said a nettled competitor; “but if she wishes, she can sink all women in a room into creeping things.”